Jakarta. The government has decided to start vaccination against Covid-19 for children aged 6–11 years tomorrow, ten days earlier than the initial schedule, Maxi Rein Rondonuwu, the interim director general of disease prevention and control at the Ministry of Health, said on Monday.
The move would protect 26.5 million children against a disease that has killed close to 144,000 people in Indonesia, according to the ministry data. Children and teenagers aged 6–18 years old accounted for about 0.5 percent of the deaths.
Until today, the government had only included teenagers between 12 and 18 years old in its free vaccination program. It is waiting for a recommendation from the Indonesian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (Itagi) regarding vaccines safety for younger children.
Maxi said on Monday that the ministry had received the recommendation from Itagi, greenlighting the vaccination for children aged 6 to 11 years.
"We hope that on Tuesday there will be kick-offs in several areas that we will determine, and then gradually until next year, we will vaccinate all children aged 6 to 11 years," Maxi said.
"This is because we want to accelerate the vaccination of all residents in Indonesia and also prevent the transmission of Covid-19," he said.
Initially, the ministry will carry out vaccination for children in districts or cities that had delivered the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 70 percent of the vaccination targets and 60 percent of their elderly population.
Maxi said that 106 districts or cities in Banten, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, East Kalimantan, Riau Islands, West Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, and Bali had met these criteria. He said about 8.8 million children living in the eligible regions were in line for vaccination using the Sinovac vaccine.
Vaccination for children is given two times with an interval of at least 28 days.
"There are 6.4 million doses in December. Then in January 2022, there will be an additional Sinovac vaccine, so [vaccination for children] will not be interrupted," Maxi said.
Starting next year, Sinovac would only be prioritized for children with two doses with an interval of at least 28 days, he said. The vaccine has become Indonesia’s most sought-after jab due to its lack of side-effect.
Maxi said vaccinations could be carried out in public health centers, hospitals, or other health care facilities, both government and private, including vaccination service posts and vaccination centers in schools and orphanages.